Survival Gardening

My Mother in Law's Inexpensive Raised Bed Garden – No More Poor Soil!



This Spring was exciting for my mother-in-law as we installed a brand new raised bed garden. We kept it simple by installing only a single garden bed. We selected a location that is extremely close to her zone of activity. Just 2 feet from her back porch was a level spot that had excellent sun exposure. So we used 2″x10″x8′ lumber to construct a 4 foot x 8 foot raised bed. The total volume was about 1 cubic yard.

Her garden box has nearly 10 inches of soil depth. This is a perfect solution for dealing with poor soil conditions. Perhaps you only have clay or rocks in your backyard. Many urban or suburban lots are stripped of their natural fertile soil at the time of construction. Then these residential lots are backfilled with poor quality fill. It might be good enough for a lawn that receives annual weed-n-feed applications. But this is hardly a recipe for a rich, organic garden!

Many square foot gardeners will fill their beds with “Mel’s Mix” which is comprised of 1/3 compost, 1/3 peat moss and 1/3 vermiculite. Filling this bed with over 26.6 cubic feet of Mel’s Mix would be more costly than what our budget permitted. So instead, I had a delivery service that brought in 4 cubic yards of 50/50 top soil and mushroom manure. This allowed us to adjust the grade of the site, to install an edible landscaping bed, and to also fill up this box. To improve water retention and soil texture, I also added 2 cu feet each of vermiculite and peat moss.

To learn more about the many advantages of a quality mushroom manure read this article:

Things have been growing well! I tried to allow for generous plant spacing, choosing to dispense with the square foot grid method. Even with the looser spacing, the plants are taking over and overflowing!

One way to optimize space and boost plant density is to train vining plants to grow vertically. So on 2 sides of this raised bed, I used U-posts and fencing wire to create a plant trellis. This also serves as a natural barrier to animal pests. I placed a small patio slab in the box to allow us to step into the box without compacting the soil. This was only needed because of the obstruction created by the trellis.

My Mother-in-law never considered that she might be able to grow in this space because of the poor soil. But with some planning and determination we’ve found an affordable solution that has gotten her excited about gardening. She can sit on her back porch and see how things are growing. Watering is easy and weeding is minimal. Next year, she won’t have to rototill since she won’t ever be stepping onto this soil. We can just apply compost and perhaps a little organic fertilizer and this garden bed will be ready to go!

#EasyGardening #RaisedBedGardens #UrbanGardening

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